Seventh-year NFL veteran is versatile lineman who wants a chance to start
Tom Compton is playing in the NFL for his hometown team, so in many ways life is a dream come true.
But one regret is gnawing at him: He didn’t get a chance to reprise his role in the “Sharknado” franchise before it goes away. He played a television news reporter in the 2015 film, “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” In his one scene, he interviewed then-U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann about a twister that deposited man-eating sharks in Washington, D.C.
The final installment of the six-film series airs later this month. Compton won’t be appearing.
“I figured they’d call me back,” he said, grinning. “My acting must not have been as good as I thought, so I’ll have to get on that after the season.”
The acting career is on hiatus as the Rosemount native prepares for his seventh year in the NFL and his first with the Vikings. He has played 71 games, starting 15, for three other teams. Compton (6-foot-6, 315 pounds) wants to lock down a spot as a starter on the offensive line, while adding that his willingness to learn multiple positions has helped keep him in the league. He has worked out at guard and tackle on both sides of the line.
“It’s just who I am and what I do,” he said following Tuesday afternoon’s training camp session in Eagan. “The more you can do, the better. It’s an old saying, but I think it still holds true. The season’s long. People get banged up. If you’re able to play two positions, that goes a long way.
“I feel like it’s a big reason I’m still playing today. If I was (playing) only one position, I don’t know how that would be going. I’ve kind of had to adapt and overcome.”
Compton’s football journey took him through Rosemount High School, where he was a two-year starter and as a senior played for an Irish team that reached the state semifinals. He played four years at the University of South Dakota, and in 2010 helped the Coyotes upset Minnesota 41-38 at TCF Bank Stadium. He was selected by Washington in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL draft. After not appearing in a game for the Redskins in 2012, he played in 44 games over the next three seasons.
In 2016, he was a backup lineman for an Atlanta Falcons team that reached the Super Bowl. Last year he played in 11 games for the Chicago Bears, starting five.
Compton said he was ready to explore what free agency had for him and was willing to consider any situation until learning of the Vikings’ interest. At that point, he concentrated on trying to get back to Minnesota.
“I tried to find what’s the best fit for me and where I have the best chance to compete,” he said. “I felt with the Vikings, I had a good chance to compete here to start, so that was a big part of it. Being back home helps, too.”
The Vikings lost two offensive line starters from last year, one to free agency and one to retirement. Compton signed with the Vikings in March and had a chance to participate in the team’s offseason program.
“Getting that time in the spring really helps out to get to know everybody, know the personalities and see where your place is,” he said. “Then training camp is more about putting pieces together. So far, so good. I have no complaints.”
The first full-squad practices were Saturday, and the Vikings went with full pads for afternoon practices beginning this week. They will have an evening practice at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4, at Twin Cities Orthopedics Stadium on the Vikings’ Eagan campus. The first preseason game is Aug. 11 at Denver.
Compton played against the Vikings twice last season and also observed from a distance as the team went 13-3 in the regular season. The Vikings reached the NFC championship game but came up one victory short of playing in the Super Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium.
They retained many of their starters and added players such as quarterback Kirk Cousins (who was Compton’s teammate in Washington) and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.
“We’re out here battling,” Compton said. “You can see some pushing and shoving, but after the period we’re still congratulating each other, talking with the defense about what we did. When you have open communication, you can build strong chemistry and that’s crucial to what makes up a good team.”
The offensive linemen have had to deal with the loss of their position coach, Tony Sparano, who died of heart disease a few days before training camp started. Clancy Barone, previously tight ends coach, and Andrew Janocko, former assistant offensive line coach, assumed Sparano’s duties on short notice.
“I wasn’t sure how it would go at first, but I think it’s been really smooth,” Compton said. “(Janocko) was basically Tony’s right-hand man and knew everything he knew, so he’s able to share that wisdom. Clancy has coached in this system and has been an offensive line coach in the past. Those two guys together, it’s incredible what they’ve been able to do.”
Compton said he’s spoken with a few South Dakota reporters since training camp began and tries as best he can to keep up with what’s happening with his college and high school teams. He suspects people from his hometown and college are trying to give him space while he settles in at training camp, and he might see more of them at practice next week.
If nothing else, Compton said, they’ll probably want to see his workplace. “This is by far the best facility in the NFL,” he said. “They went above and beyond here, man, and I’m extremely grateful that I get to use this facility every day.”